By Phillipe Roberts
In a three song suite appropriately titled Gushing, Wsabi Fox erupt with emotion without shame or restraint, and cut a wide swath across genres in the process. The strange brew of sounds mixed up by the band is hard to label and even harder to ignore. At times, it swoons with delicate psychedelic touches - a touch of dreamy strings over here, shimmering echoes and jazzy, gliding beats over there - while at others, particularly opening track “Yes Ma’am,” it seeks to pin your ears in place with jagged stabs of distorted prog rock riffing and dissonant baritone saxophone. Miraculously, it gels together wonderfully, sounding like the climactic final act in a well-rehearsed piece of absurdist theater. On Gushing, Wsabi Fox throw some serious weight around, enveloping you in a brutal stream-of-consciousness that rewards getting swept up in the current.
Wsabi Fox self-labeled the opening track “Yes Ma’am” as a “femme dom anthem.” Sure enough, it wastes no time getting you under its control with squealing, no-wave saxophone blasts and a dizzying riff that tosses and turns like a heavy sea underneath it all. From there on out, it’s a funhouse of constantly warping textures - strings, horns, and transitional noise passages that keep you on your toes. And still that one riff keeps grinding on. The assault is relentless, but never exhausting. Vocalist Jennae Santos doesn’t take up much room on the track, floating in and out to deliver growls and ghostly wails; if anything, you get the sense that she’s rocking out hard as we are, lost in the gritty circular groove that feels like it could stretch on forever.
Frankly, if the record continued on with more tracks in this vein, Santos’ compositional brilliance in the swinging grind mode of “Yes Ma’am” would no doubt carry Gushing to the top of your brooding bangers playlist. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your taste), that isn’t the case; Santos just has too many tricks up her sleeve. After drifting through the delayed guitar echoes with a freely spinning vocal intro, “Diabolical Hue” comes into focus with a psychedelic explosion of drums around the two minute mark. But rather than continue as is, it retreats into a stop-start back and forth between guitar and drums, a kind of math-rock interlude set against some sinister, cinematic strings. That interlude eventually returns in the opening of “Flamingo,” but for now, they close “Diabolical Hue” out with more seismic eruptions, bowing out on an emotional high.
The swings in mood are violent yet compact; Wsabi Fox have the chops to craft those spacey, post-rock influenced atmospherics, but they prefer to use them as bait, signaling the all-clear as they ready another heavy prog blast of energy to knock you over the head with, like an inverted Godspeed You! Black Emperor with a little more swing. Surprisingly, final track “Flamingo” deviates the furthest from the formula they’ve set up, preferring to coast on that stuttering guitar flourish as strings swell and bloom around them. The whole thing seems calculated to give you goosebumps, pressure building at a constant rate before those soft pinprick noises become a deluge of sound which evaporates just in time for Santos to deliver a folk coda. Only one release in, Wsabi Fox have shown a marvelous knack for occupying many dimensions at once in their music. Gushing isn’t just the perfect title, but an accurate description of how tough it’ll be to keep this perfect open secret to yourself.